A new technology developed at the Sandia National Laboratory, in the United States, has managed to optimize the characteristics of solar panels so that they can be used effectively in space. Deployable solar panels are already being tested on a small satellite that was recently launched, powered by innovative solar energy technology.
According to a Press release, in the future it is expected to be used on the surface of the Moon, for example as charging stations to power rovers, battery packs, and other electrical equipment used by spacecraft and astronauts. The new approach is based on solar microcells: thanks to their small size, low weight and flexible nature, they allow the development of more economical and efficient panels for use in space.
On Earth and in space
The solar energy It has been used in various ways since long before the invention of solar panels, around the middle of the 1950s. For example, the Romans used it in their bathhouses by placing massive windows that allowed direct sunlight and heat Water. In the same vein, researchers and scientists used sunlight to power steamships in the 18th and 19th centuries. Now, it could become the best energy alternative in space missions to the Moon and other destinations.
The new approach seeks to reduce the cost of creating solar technology and increase its efficiency, so that it can be viable and sustainable in space, in the framework of missions that consume large budgets and should try to achieve the highest possible degree of independence from terrestrial resources. . The interconnected cells in panels They are made of silicon: they can be combined and integrated in any shape or size.
Thanks to these characteristics, less material is required to make adequately controlled and highly efficient solar energy collection devices. As a logical consequence, it is possible to reduce the economic impact of the facilities, one of the issues that hinders a greater popularization of this alternative of clean energy on earth.
The new technology is already being tested to feed a satellite currently in orbit, and if the results are as expected it could become a concrete solution for the cost-effective and large-scale implementation of energy systems in future space missions. For example, the NASA-led Artemis program could do return humanity to the Moon in 2024.
A large satellite capturing energy from the sun
According to a Article published in The New Times, there are other projects that aim to take advantage of the solar energy in spacesolar energy in space. The California Institute of Technology (CalTech) recently announced that it will conduct a first test launch in late 2022 or 2023, to test its approach to photovoltaics in space.
Meanwhile, new solar energy installations geared towards space missions will be completed by the end of this year in the city of Chongqing, in southwest China, starting tests in 2022. From this development, the first station of test space solar energy of China would be launched in 2030.
Chinese technology is also designed to harness the sun’s energy captured in space on Earth. It will include a satelite orbiting at an altitude of almost 36,000 kilometers, dedicated to collecting solar energy and then deriving it to Earth through microwaves, for its conversion into electricity.
Cover photo: Artistic recreation of a solar-powered satellite in space. Credit: Net photo / The New Times.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.